Foods To Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

Foods To Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

ice cream

It is important to know what to eat for diarrhea. But it is just as important to know what not to eat when you have diarrhea. The last thing you would want to do is to make matters worse by eating foods that can potentially aggravate your GI system or increase the speed of intestinal contractions, leading to more misery.

Let's take a look at foods that you will absolutely want to avoid until your system settles down...

Dairy Products

milk and cheese
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Even if you don’t suffer from lactose intolerance, it might be a good idea to avoid dairy products for a while after suffering from a bout of diarrhea. Diarrhea can cause a lessening of the amount of the enzyme lactase. Lactase is needed in order for the body to digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. If this “milk sugar” goes undigested, it can result in further symptoms of gas, bloating, nausea and diarrhea. Here are some common lactose-containing foods:

  • Butter
  • Soft cheese, such as ricotta or cottage cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Milk

The one exception to this rule is yogurt. The probiotics within yogurt may actually help your body to heal. Choose plain yogurt and skip those with excess added sugar.

Let's move on to foods that may really wreak havoc with your system...

Fatty Foods

Fast food
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Foods with a high fat content can speed up intestinal contractions and cause a reaction to a system that is already sensitized, almost guaranteeing further trips to the john. 

This means no:

  • Creamy foods
  • Fast food
  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Foods covered in gravy
  • Greasy foods

Next, a food group that you might not even give a thought to:

Sugar-Free Foods

sugar-free candies
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Some artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes can have a laxative effect, as well as contribute to gas and bloating. So until you are feeling better, it is best to avoid:

  • Diet soda
  • Sugar-free candy
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Sugar substitute packets for coffee and tea

The next group probably won't come as a total surprise...

Gas-Producing Foods

Bowl of Baked Beans
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Certain foods have a well-documented reputation for increasing intestinal gas which could contribute to further diarrhea.

Here are some of the gassiest vegetables and legumes:

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Onions

Certain fruits can be gas-producing as well:

  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Dried fruits (apricots, prunes, raisins)

For a comprehensive list of the gassiest and least gassy foods, see:

Don't forget to watch out for what you drink...

Alcohol, Caffeine and Carbonated Beverages

assorted cocktails
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For healthy individuals, beverages containing alcohol, caffeine, and carbonation do not generally cause diarrhea. However, each has the potential to be a GI irritant, and thus are probably best avoided until your system returns to normal. 

Do not reach for flat soda either. Although your grandmother may have made that recommendation, the components in soda may actually make things worse. A better choice would be an oral rehydration solution or just plain water.

Last, foods to avoid so that you don't get sick again...

Unsafe Foods

beef on sticks being grilled
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Whether you have diarrhea or not, you should always make sure that you only eat food that has been safely washed, prepared and stored. Foods that are not safely prepared and stored put you at risk for a serious gastrointestinal illness.

Always observe good food hygiene:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing or eating any food.
  • Thoroughly wash all raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean food preparation surfaces with hot soapy water before and after use.
  • Cook all foods to an internal temperature of 160 F.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers immediately after eating.

Feel-Better Tips for Diarrhea

man in bed with laptop
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More Feel-Better Tips:


JAMA Patient Page Food-Borne Illnesses. The Journal of the American Medical Association 2003 290.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) Diarrhea

Noone, C., Menzies,I., Banatvala, J. & Scopes, J. Intestinal permeability and lactose hydrolysis in human rotaviral gastroenteritis assessed simultaneously by non-invasive differential sugar permeation. European Journal of Clinical Investigation 1986 16:217-225.

Simren, M., Abrahamsson, H. & Bjornsson, E. "An exaggerated sensory component of the gastrocolonic response in patients with irritable bowel syndrome." Gut 2001 48:20-27.

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